Supernatural by Santana

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Supernatural by SantanaThe amazing thing about Supernatural is how popular and commercially successful it became in spite of its plethora of styles, multiple lead vocalists and bi-lingual lyrical content. Released in 1999, this was the eighteenth studio album by Santana, the Latin-style rock project led by guitarist Carlos Santana.  It was, by far, Santana’s biggest commercial success, selling about 30 million copies worldwide and topping the album charts in eleven countries, including a total of twelve weeks at #1 in the US.

By the time of Supernatural‘s production, Santana already had a career that spanned over thirty years, commencing in the mid sixties with spurts of innovation, commercial success, experimentation, decline and hiatus. In 1991, Santana’s record deal with Columbia Records came to an end and subsequent albums on the Polydor/Island labels did not fare well commercially. However, Carlos Santana’s involvement in a 1995 documentary about executive and Arista Records founder Clive Davis (who was at Columbia when Santana was first signed in 1969), led to a deal with Arista.

Supernatural was forged with a desire to produce more radio friendly songs and its sound is a blend of elements that combine “vintage Santana” with contemporary influences from several genres. Along with the plethora of guest performing artists, the twelve original album tracks were put together by a total of thirteen co-producers.


Supernatural by Santana
Released: June 15, 1999 (Arista)
Produced by: Carlos Santana, Clive Davis, Jerry Duplessis, The Dust Brothers, Alex González, Charles Goodan, Lauryn Hill, Art Hodge, Wyclef Jean, K.C. Porter, Dante Ross, Matt Serletic & Stephen Harris
Recorded: Fantasy Studios, Berkeley, CA, 1999
Track Listing Primary Musicians
(Da Le) Yaleo
Love of My Life
Put Your Lights On
Africa Bamba
Smooth
Do You Like the Way
Maria Maria
Migra
Corazón Espinado
Wishing It Was
Primavera
The Calling
Carlos Santana – Guitars, Percussion, Vocals
Ross Childress – Guitars, Vocals
Chester D. Thompson – Keyboards
Benny Rietveld – Bass
Rodney Holmes – Drums

 
Supernatural by Santana

 

 

The opener “(Da Le) Yaleo” is a Spanish language song that delves right in with the Carlos Santana signature guitar lead over the fine Latin percussion, with “Love of My Life” instantly changing direction. This second track is driven by the drums of Carter Beauford and topped by a smooth, jazzy arrangement with long, serene keys and good vocals by co-writer and lead vocalist Dave Matthews. The acoustic ballad “Put Your Lights On” slowly builds in arrangement with lyrics of existentialism by Everlast, ultimately making this a minor hit single. “Africa Bamba” follows and features acoustic and electric lead guitars for nice atmosphere.

By far the most popular single from Supernatural was “Smooth”, co-written by Itaal Shur and Rob Thomas and featuring Thomas on lead vocals. The track opens with a definitive Santana lead but eases into a groove of fine rhythms, proficient horn accents, enhanced vocals and overall great production. “Smooth” topped the pop charts (having the distinction of being the number one song when the century ended) and, ultimately, won three Grammy Awards. The next couple tracks have a definitive R&B vibe, Lauryn Hill‘s hip hop leaning “Do You Like the Way” and “Maria Maria”, another chart-topping and Grammy winning tune produced by Wyclef Jean and Jerry Duplessis.

Santana in 1999

The album’s second half, while still entertaining, features more repetitive and less groundbreaking songs. “Corazón Espinado” is almost like a Spanish language counterpart to “Smooth”, highlighted by Karl Perazzo on timbales, as “Wishing It Was” is another jazzy Latin ballad, featuring Eagle-Eye Cherry on vocals. The instrumental “El Farol” has plenty of atmosphere to tease out the beauty of Santana’s lead guitar, while “Primavera” is a standard Latin pop track. A highlight of this section of the album is “Migra”, driven by a strong drum beat and wild electric lead throughout, finding space between each vocal track, along with an excellent accordion by K.C. Porter and harmonized trumpets and trombones. “The Calling” is the original album closer, featuring Eric Clapton and starting with a long, Miles Davis like improvised section with Clapton and Santana trading guitar licks before the song proper of electronic drums backing a Gospel-like rendition with vocals by Tony Lindsay and Jeanie Tracy. Hidden within the track is “Day of Celebration”, a shuffle rhythmically, but it maintains a similar Gospel feel of uplift.

At nearly 75 minutes in length, the 1999 original version was a monster-size listening experience in of itself. However, the 2010 Legacy Edition added a second disc of outtakes, remixes and covers, clocking in at over two hours in total length of music. Supernatural went on to win nine Grammy Awards as an album and it sustained its popularity to the degree that it was the the ninth best-selling album of the decade of 2000s, despite being officially released in the 1990s. The album also gave Santana a unique entry into the Guinness book of World Records, as his previous number one album was Santana III in 1971, making the 28 year gap between number one albums for an artist the longest in history.

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1999 images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 20th anniversary of 1999 albums.

 

Dosage by Collective Soul

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Dosage by Collective SoulCollective Soul finished their nineties output by making a return to the mid nineties sound that brought their greatest success. In early 1999, the group released their fourth album, Dosage, with both a step back towards familiar styles and some addition of slight sophistication in the song composition and arrangement. The results of this strategy were somewhat mixed as the album was not quite as successful commercially as past releases, but it did pose as a bit of a comeback critically.

Collective Soul was formed after the production of a high quality demo by guitarist/vocalist Ed Roland made some serious waves, eventually becoming the group’s 1993 debut, Hints, Allegations and Things Left Unsaid. Collective Soul’s self-titled sophomore record became their pinnacle of success, spawning several radio hits and spending over a year on the album charts. However, 1997’s Disciplined Breakdown, which followed a split with management and some legal wranglings, fared significantly lower critically and commercially.

Roland produced Dosage and derived the title from a common catchphrase the group used to describe burnout from touring. The album was meticulously recorded in Atlanta and Miami over a six-month period in 1998 and was the first to feature keyboardist and orchestra arranger Anthony Resta, who played a significant role in forging this record’s sound.


Dosage by Collective Soul
Released: February 9, 1999 (Atlantic)
Produced by: Ed Roland
Recorded: Tree Studios, Atlanta & Criteria Studios, Miami, 1998
Track Listing Primary Musicians
Tremble for My Beloved
Heavy
No More, No Less
Needs
Slow
Dandy Life
Run
Generate
Compliment
Not the One
Crown
Ed Roland – Lead Vocals, Guitars, Keyboards
Ross Childress – Guitars, Vocals
Dean Roland – Guitars
Anthony J. Resta – Keyboards
Will Turpin – Bass, Vocals
Shane Evans – Drums, PercussionDosage by Collective Soul

 

 

The album’s opening track, “Tremble for My Beloved”, was also one of the first songs written for the album. Ironically, this would take nearly a decade to find widespread fame after it was featured in the 2008 film Twilight. “Heavy” was a more immediate hit, as rose to the top of the Mainstream Rock Tracks for nearly four months in 1999. With a theme about outside pressure, “Heavy” features a catchy guitar riff and fine lead by Ross Childress. The intro to “No More, No Less” is driven by electronic percussive effects along with fine bass riff by Will Turpin, while “Needs” starts with finger picked acoustic and strings and picks up intensity from there.

“Slow” was co-written by Ed’s brother and band guitarist Dean Roland, featuring a wild main riff with barked out vocals during the verses, making this tune very catchy and entertaining overall. Conversely, “Dandy Life” was penned by Childress, who also takes over lead vocals on this sticky-sweet dance-styled pop tune. The hit track “Run” follows, featuring steady acoustic strumming guided by piano leads and a strong but short guitar lead.

Collective Soul

As the album winds down there are a few more interesting moments. The synth-driven track “Generate” features an odd-time percussive effect and a very mechanical vibe throughout, making this unique on the album and one of the better tracks on it’s latter half. “Compliment” starts with cool synth arpeggio before breaking into a standard moderate rocker, much the same as “Not the One”, a ballad driven by the steady beat of drummer Shane Evans. “Crown” is the last official track as a slow and methodical acoustic ballad with plenty of electronic décor and a fine guitar lead. After this fades and about a minute of silence, the “hidden” track “She Said” kicks in as a quality song with nice, alternating use of synths in chorus.

Dosage peaked at near the Top 20 on the Billboard albums chart, making it a moderate overall hit for Collective Soul. This album would find temporary new life in 2012 when the group performed the album in its entirety during their “Dosage” tour.

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1999 images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 20th anniversary of 1999 albums.

 

Skid Row

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This album review is provided by Merry Mercurial, a writer of fiction, essays, reviews, and the “highly subjective” music blog, The Music According to Merry.

Skid RowEvery bit as fun as candy cigarettes, if not as addictive as the nicotine-laced real deals, Skid Row released their self-titled debut album on January 24, 1989. From the beginning, the biggest criticism leveled against the band was the extent to which they blended in with the big-hair, big-chants, “Big Guns” era of metal at the turn of the ’90s. They weren’t here to reinvent pop-metal. They didn’t offer some special recipe inimitable by the likes of Bon Jovi or Guns ‘n’ Roses. Rock purists who considered the genre transgressive, or at least inventive, by nature weren’t forgiving to Skid Row—to many, the band was a formula filler.

  • The feathery blond hair that shimmied perfectly under stage lighting to the radio-friendly thump of “Shake, shake—shake it like a rattlesnake.”
  • The leather.
  • The decade-appropriate guitar distortion and solos.
  • The earnest, angsty, but ultimately good-guy anthems from the POV of, well, youth gone wild. Their very song titles seemed borrowed from a manual called Getting by in Glam Metal.

If there’s one reason Skid Row broke free of the pack, it was a tall, Bahamian-born, Canadian-raised singer-songwriter named Sebastian.
As lead vocalist of the band starting in ’87, Sebastian Bach knew how to accentuate simple phrases (like the “Hey, man!” of “Youth Gone Wild”) in a way that hinted at history and place—this wasn’t someone who’d scrubbed his voice clean for mass appeal; this guy was from somewhere. And this was a guy who went for it, full tilt, with everything he sang.


Skid Row by Skid Row
Released: January 24, 1989 (Atlantic)
Produced by: Michael Wagener
Recorded: Royal Recorders in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, 1988
Track Listing Group Musicians
Big Guns
Sweet Little Sister
Can’t Stand The Heartache
Piece Of Me
18 And Life
Rattlesnake Shake
Youth Gone Wild
Here I Am
Makin’ A Mess
I Remember You
Midnight/Tornado
Sebastian Bach – Lead Vocals
Scotti Hill – Guitars, Vocals
Dave Sabo – Guitars, Vocals
Rachel Bolan – Bass, Vocals
Rob Affuso – Drums, Percussion
 
Skid Row

 

Though never released as a single, “Here I Am” may offer one of the best examples of Sebastian Bach’s stylistic range, and of Skid Row’s potential. Musically, the song doesn’t exactly break down barriers of rhythm and arrangement—but it sure is fun. Hinged on aggressive guitars that screech occasionally toward dog-whistle heights, the music doesn’t bother ebbing or tapering; it stays loud and proud until inter-track silence falls.

As for Sebastian? He growls and he throws out low-tone vocal punches. On choruses, he aims for the back-most benches of the stadium bleachers. The way he trills about “her German cigarettes” exemplifies the happy medium between drama and shtick, as does the jump-roping beat of his ensuing “no-no-no.” True, this vocal quirk may not be such a different beast from Axl Rose bringing the world to its “shun n-n-n-n-n-n-n-n knees” in GNR’s “Welcome to the Jungle” from their ’87 album Appetite for Destruction. But Sebastian doesn’t just master the sexy/slapstick stutter or just theatrically accentuate his rs. Or just slingshot from low-lows to seraphic-highs. He packages the full suite in a way that feels effortless. His voice, in fact, can create the impression of a feline when catnip’s being tossed around the room—free, fast, moody, everywhere at once.

Skid Row in 1989

Also comprised, at the time, of bassist Rachel Bolan, guitarists Scotti Hill and Dave Sabo, and drummer Rob Affuso, Skid Row recorded their first album in Geneva, Wisconsin. Under the banner of Atlantic Records, they worked with producer Michael Wagener, also notable for his work with Mötley Crüe, Poison, and Megadeth. The auspicious debut would reach number six on the Billboard 200 and earn 5× platinum certification by the RIAA. Of the album’s four singles, “18 and Life” became the band’s most popular, reaching number 4 on the US Billboard Hot 100.

After a nine-year run, Sebastian Bach parted ways with Skid Row in 1996. That he went on to perform in Jekyll & Hyde on Broadway along with The Rocky Picture Horror Show — and that, to fresh generation of fans, he will forever be Gil from the band Hep Alien on Gilmore Girls — should come as no surprise. The same theatrical acumen that helped him elevate Skid Row from the midlist made (and make) him an all-around great performer. Skid Row is still together today, now with Rob Hammersmith on drums and ZP Theart leading the vocals. Check out their latest music, outrageous fonts, and tour schedule on thier official website.

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1989 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1989 albums.
 

Mutations by Beck

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Mutations by BeckFor his sixth studio album, Beck and company decided to move in a decidedly non-commercial direction. The result is the lo-fi, psychedelic-oriented potpourri of Mutations. Released in late 1998, the songs on this album are masterfully composed to appear simple and straightforward at first, but reveal more sonic depth upon subsequent listens. Despite being less commercially successful than previous records, the album reached the Top 20 in the US and has gone on to sell over a million copies worldwide.

Beck’s previous album, 1996’s Odelay, was a commercial breakthrough as a fine blend of diverse genres such as country, blues, rap, jazz and rock with a methodical, “cut-and-paste” type method of production. The ensuing aftermath of success saw the normally reclusive artist land a Grammy nomination along with appearances on mainstream television. With this sudden rise, a proper strategy for a follow-up had less time to mature.

Entering the sessions for Mutations in Los Angeles, Beck and his touring band recorded over a dozen songs in two weeks with producer Nigel Godrich. In contrast to the previous album’s production, much of this captured the performance of the musicians live as they recorded with heavy use of acoustic guitars, keyboards and strings.


Mutations by Beck
Released: November 22, 1998 (DCG)
Produced by: Beck Hansen & Nigel Godrich
Recorded: Los Angeles, March–April 1998
Track Listing Primary Musicians
Cold Brains
Nobody’s Fault but My Own
Lazy Flies
Canceled Check
We Live Again
Tropicalia
Dead Melodies
Bottle of Blues
O Maria
Sing It Again
Static
Beck Hansen – Lead Vocals, Guitars, Piano, Keyboards, Harmonica, Percussion
Smokey Hormel – Guitars, Vocals
Roger Manning – Keyboards, Percussion, Vocals
Justin Meldal-Johnsen – Bass, Vocals
Joey Waronker – Drums, PercussionMutations by Beck

The opening track and single release “Cold Brains” features some oddly poetic lyrics which Beck compared to the humorous side of Leonard Cohen with a musical vibe that is “like country music on the moon”. “Nobody’s Fault But My Own” was another single release which went on to become one of the most beloved songs in the artist’s library as it builds from a sparse setting into a rich orchestral arrangement.

The upbeat and pulsing “Lazy Flies” follows, leading to a break for the Western flavored tune “Canceled Check” and the harpsichord laden “We Live Again”. The album’s third single, “Tropicalia” was inspired by world music, especially music from Brazil. The song was written by Beck while riding on a tour bus.

Beck

As the album progresses it features many lesser known tracks which continue to touch on diverse musical areas. “Dead Melodies” is an acoustic ballad with subtle backing vocals, “Bottle Of Blues” lives up to its title’s promise, “O Maria” features a piano-driven swing, while “Sing It Again” and “Static” each feature a subtle musical landscape. The most interesting track of the latter album is “Diamond Bollocks”, a track with many twists and turns while maintaining a catchy groove and consistent, moderate beat. The album then concludes with the minimalist “Runners Dial Zero”.

Mutations was originally intended to be released by the indie label Bong Load Records. However, after the executives at Beck’s major label, Geffen, heard the finished product they reneged on their permission to let the smaller label release the record. This led to years of litigation between the artist and label over this album which eventually won a Grammy for Best Alternative Music.

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1998 Page

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 20th anniversary of 1998 albums.

Abandoned Luncheonette by Hall & Oates

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Abandoned Luncheonette by Hall and OatesFor all the success that this Philadelphia-based duo would experience later on in their career, Daryl Hall and John Oates struggled to find a commercial footing early on. That’s not to say that they didn’t produce interesting and creative music as demonstrated brilliantly on their second album, Abandoned Luncheonette, released in late 1973. Despite only reaching #33 on the album charts during its initial run, this album slowly grew in stature and would finally reach platinum-selling status about three decades after its release.

The duo first met in 1967 while each was leading a separate group during a band competition. They later discovered that they had common musical interests and that both attended Temple University. The Hall & Oates musical duo was officially formed in 1970, with a recording contract at Atlantic Records. Their debut album, Whole Oates, was produced by Arif Mardin and released in November 1972 but failed to have any commercial success.

For Abandoned Luncheonette, the group and production team moved from from Philadelphia to New York where their disparate influences of folk, rock and soul were refined with the help of expert session players to forge the album’s musical tapestry as well as the group’s signature sound for the next decade. Much like on their album, the compositions and to a lesser extent lead vocals are split between the two with Hall & Oates penning just a few co-written songs.


Abandoned Luncheonette by Hall and Oates
Released: November 3, 1973 (Atlantic)
Produced by: Arif Mardin
Recorded: Atlantic Studios and Advantage Sound Studios, New York City, 1973
Side One Side Two
When The Morning Comes
Had I Known You Better Then
Las Vegas Turnaround (Stewardess Song)
She’s Gone
I’m Just A Kid
Abandoned Luncheonette
Lady Rain
Laughing Boy
Everytime I Look At You
Primary Musicians
Daryl Hall – Piano, Keyboards, Vocals
John Oates – Guitars, Vocals
Chris Bond – Guitars, Keyboards, Vocals
Steve Gelfand – Bass
Bernard Purdie – Drums, Percussion

The album begin’s with Hall’s “When the Morning Comes”, a subtle acoustic reggae beat sprinkled with a cool mellotron by Chris Bond . It allows plenty of room for Hall’s vocals to expand through his generous range. Rhythmically, the song is kept moving by the drums of the legendary Bernard Purdie. Oats provides his initial composition with “Had I Known You Better Then”, a folk singer/songwriter type song with just a hint of the rock n’ soul sound driven by a slight electric piano by Hall. “Las Vegas Turnaround (The Stewardess Song)” has a fine, unique musical groove, highlighted by the saxophone lead of Joe Farrell and the main lyrical subject appears to be Hall’s girlfriend Sara Allen, the later subject of the 1976 hit song “Sara Smile”.

Another future hit for the duo is the fantastic “She’s Gone”, the true classic song from album. With a building arrangement starting with Steve Gelfand‘s bass and the subtle soul piano. A true duet, the atmosphere continues building atmosphere through its duration with horns introducing the strong outro section. Although released in 1974 as a single, it wouldn’t chart until it was re-released two years later, when it became a Top Ten hit in 1976. “I’m Just a Kid (Don’t Make Me Feel Like a Man)” revisits the somewhat tacky acoustic folk/rock by Oates, albeit with good harmonies throughout and an interesting use of keyboards.

Hall and Oates, 1973

The album’s title song commences the original side two, as a nostalgic storyteller suite interesting arrangement of piano, horns and further orchestration. “Abandoned Luncheonette” rapidly shifts a few times in style and shift, expressing the past moments of the now defunct location. “Lady Rain” is a funky folk tune with good combined vocals and an interesting dark string arrangement and bluesy guitar licks by Hugh McCracken, while the simple ballad “Laughing Boy” features Hall solo on piano and vocals and just some very subtle orchestration, providing a mood which sounds like it would fit better in a thematic or concept album. The extended closer
“Everytime I Look At You” starts as an upbeat funk/rocker with a heavy guitar and bass presence that make this heavier than anything else on this album. Hall provides an excellent guitar lead before Hall’s climatic vocal part followed by and unexpected outro of banjo and fiddle to an escalating tempo to finish the album.

Both Hall & Oates have allegedly cited Abandoned Luncheonette as their favorite album in their catalog. The duo released their third album, War Babies, in 1974 before moving on to RCA Records and much success in subsequent years.

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1973 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1973 albums.

 

Infidels by Bob Dylan

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Infidels by Bob DylanIn 1983, Bob Dylan released his studio album, Infidels. With this, Dylan received his highest critical and commercial success in nearly a decade. Still, through time, Infidels received criticism for not including some classic tracks like “Foot of Pride”, “Someone’s Got a Hold of My Heart” and “Blind Willie McTell”, which were both recorded for this album but ultimately omitted. The latter of these would not be released until an outtakes album in 1991 but has come to be considered a true classic in Dylan’s expansive portfolio.

Late in the 1970s, Dylan became an evangelical Christian and, after dedicating three months of discipleship, he decided to release a trilogy of Gospel influenced music. Slow Train Coming (1979) was well-received critically, won Dylan a Grammy award for the song “Gotta Serve Somebody”, and marked his first work with Dire Straits guitarist Mark Knopfler. The subsequent albums Saved (1980) and Shot of Love (1981) were less regarded by critics and fans.

Co-produced by Knofler, Infidels was seen as a return to Dylan’s secular music roots. He initially wanted to self-produce the album but capitulated due to his lack of knowledge of emerging recording technology. Dylan had spoken with David Bowie, Frank Zappa, and Elvis Costello about producing this album before hiring Knopfler.

 


Infidels by Bob Dylan
Released: October 27, 1983 (Columbia)
Produced by: Mark Knopfler and Bob Dylan
Recorded: The Power Station, New York City, April-May 1983
Side One Side Two
Jokerman
Sweetheart Like You
Neighborhood Bully
License to Kill
Man of Peace
Union Sundown
I and I
Don’t Fall Apart on Me Tonight
Primary Musicians
Bob Dylan – Lead Vocals, Guitars, Keyboards, Harmonica
Mark Knopfler – Guitars
Mick Taylor – Guitars
Alan Clark – Piano, Keyboards
Robbie Shakespeare – Bass
Sly Dunbar – Drums, Percussion

 

The album begins with its strongest tune, “Jokerman”, which is musically led by Robbie Shakespeare‘s thumping bass and the subtle duo guitars of Knopfler and former Rolling Stone Mick Taylor. Meanwhile, Dylan provides potent lyrics and great melody and, although very repetitive, the song has much forward motion due to the increasing vocal intensity as well as the subtle building of musical arrangement and fine harmonica leads late in the song. Released as a single in 1984, “Jokerman” simultaneously spawned Dylan’s MTV-era music video. “Sweetheart Like You” follows as a rather standard ballad with a good hook. Knofler’s influence is very evident in its arrangement which also features keyboardist Alan Clark.

Much of the material on Infidels has a solid rock or pop arrangement, displaying how far musically Dylan had strayed from the folk or roots based music he proliferated in the 1960s while still touching on the topical issues of the day. “Neighborhood Bully” has a new wave edge with a bit of Southern-style guitar slide while lyrically using sarcasm to defend Israel’s right to exist. “License to Kill” closes the first side as a slow and steady rocker with plenty of twangy and guitar motion with lyrics that address man’s relationship to the environment.

Bob Dylan in 1983

The surprising rock arrangements continue into the second side with the layered electric guitar riffs, Hammond organ of “Man of Peace” and the crisp rocker “Union Sundown”, with Clark providing some nice rocking piano in mix and guest Clydie King adding some backing vocals. “I and I” is an interesting tune with subtle verses and more forceful choruses, making it perhaps the best song on the album’s second side. The album concludes with the pleasant, upbeat ballad, “Don’t Fall Apart on Me Tonight”, a purely traditional love song.

A gold selling record, Infidels Reach the Top 20 in the US and the Top 10 in the UK. This achievement would mark the artist’s best success in the decade of the 1980s up until the 1989 release of the classic Oh Mercy.

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1983 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1983 albums.

 

Wake of the Flood by The Grateful Dead

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Wake of the Flood by Grateful DeadThe Grateful Dead‘s long awaited sixth studio album, Wake of the Flood, marked a new era for the California band. Their first studio album in nearly three years, this was the first album on their independent Grateful Dead Records label as well as the first to feature the couple Keith Godchaux on piano and keyboards and Donna Jean Godchaux on backing vocals. This seven track album features compositions which draw from a blend of influences, ranging from the roots genres of country, folk and ragtime to a seventies modern fusion of funk and jazz rock.

In 1970, the Grateful Dead released two critically acclaimed studio albums, Workingman’s Dead and American Beauty, where they scaled back their sound with heavy folk and country influences. Following this breakthrough success, the band did extensive worldwide touring and would release three live albums in three years – Grateful Dead in 1971, Europe ’72 in 1972, and Bear’s Choice in 1973. Keith Godchaux joined the group in 1971 as a pianist alongside founding keyboardist Ron “Pigpen” McKernan, when Pigpen was moved exclusively to Hammond B3 organ at the time. In 1972, McKernan’s health deteriorated, leaving him unable tour, and  ultimately lose his life in March 1973 due to complications from liver damage. Percussionist Micky Hart also temporarily left the band during this era, leaving drummer Bill Kreutzmann as the sole member behind the skins.

In August 1973, the Grateful Dead took a break from touring to record studio versions of new songs which had been in live rotation. The band chose to record Wake of the Flood at the Record Plant in Sausalito, California, near their Bay area home base. The band self produced the album along with help from staff engineers and recorded everything is less than two weeks.


Wake of the Flood by The Grateful Dead
Released: October 15, 1973 (Grateful Dead)
Produced by: The Grateful Dead
Recorded: The Record Plant, Sausalito, CA, August, 1973
Side One Side Two
Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo
Let Me Sing Your Blues Away
Row Jimmy
Stella Blue
Here Comes Sunshine
Eyes of the World
Weather Report Suite
Group Musicians
Jerry Garcia – Guitars, Vocals
Bob Weir – Guitars, Vocals
Keith Godchaux – Keyboards, Vocals
Phil Lesh – Bass
Bill Kreutzmann – Drums, Percussion

Sonically, Wake of the Flood moves from very simple to more complex as the album moves along. The opening “Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo” has a real loose, live feel as a down-home bluegrass track featuring the fiddle of guest Vassar Clements throughout. Jerry Garcia‘s lead vocals are somewhat low in the mix of this track which likely got its title as a play on “Mother McCree’s Uptown Jug Champs”, a mid-sixties bluegrass group started by Garcia, McKernan and guitarist Bob Weir. “Let Me Sing Your Blues Away” introduces Keith Godchaux to the listening audience as lead vocalist and co-writer with lyricist Robert Hunter. The first single from this album, this song has some strong melodic ideas and harmonies which are not completely formed on this recording.

Garcia’s complex and rhythmic “Row Jimmy” is the first sonically satisfying song on the album as a ballad accented with clavichord and percussion to complement the usual fine bass by Phil Lesh along with dual guitar licks. The exquisite “Stella Blue” is the best showcase of Garcia’s emotional vocals and is an overall well produced and tight ballad with an original and beautiful vibe with Hunter’s lyrics telling a story of lost love and sadness.

Grateful Dead in 1973

The album’s second side starts with the song that gives album its title. “Here Comes Sunshine” features another rich musical mix with an optimistic story of better days to come. The funky track “Eyes of the World” furthers the group’s sonic advancement into the fine mixes which they would display later in the 1970s, with great chord progressions, rudiments, rhythms and lead guitar. This leads to the album closer, Weir’s fantastic, three part “Weather Report Suite”, which showcases incredible, layered guitars and a smoothly put together and exquisitely produced jazz-influenced musical journey throughout. The “Prelude” section is an acoustic instrumental with slowly building rhythmic accompaniment, leading to “Part I”, featuring lyrics by guest Eric Andersen. The song addresses the seasons, and their relationship to the narrator’s state of mind. “Part II (Let it Grow)” feature’s Weir’s longtime lyrical partner John Perry Barlow and is the most upbeat part of the suite with music is perfectly laid out with various elements, including rich horns and a closing dual sax and harmonica lead, all making for a fine closing of this album.

Reaching the Top 20, Wake of the Flood fared better on the pop charts than any previous studio album. The Grateful Dead Records did not last all that long, collapsing in 1976, which resulted in this album all but disappearing from the marketplace for about a dozen years until it was issued on CD in the late 1980s.

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1973 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1973 albums.

 

Dizzy Up the Girl by Goo Goo Dolls

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Dizzy Up the Girl by Goo Goo DollsIt took six albums and over a decade for Goo Goo Dolls to be propelled into international success and 1998’s Dizzy Up the Girl was that ultimate catalyst. This album features more upbeat and pop-oriented compositions than the group had recorded on their five previous albums and no doubt this helped the record to achieve its stellar commercial success. It has sold more than four million copies and reached the Top 20 on album charts in several countries.

This Buffalo, New York based group was formed in the mid 1980s by guitarist/vocalist Johnny Rzeznik and bassist/vocalist Robby Takac. Their name was inspired by an ad for a toy. Once they signed with Mercury Records they used that name for their 1987 self-titled debut album. They had a loyal but mostly local fan base around the Buffalo music scene as they released several more albums through the early 1990s. Their 1995 album, A Boy Named Goo, was the first to receive national attention due to the success of the single “Name”, ultimately fueling that album towards double-platinum success. Shortly before that album’s release, drummer Mike Malinin became a permanent member of the trio.

The production of Dizzy Up the Girl followed a legal battle over earned royalties and through this time Goo Goo Dolls underwent a fundamental change in sound from strictly alternative rock to a more pop and mainstream music. The album was produced by Rob Cavallo and recorded during 1997 and 1998.


Dizzy Up the Girl by Goo Goo Dolls
Released: September 22, 1998 (Warner Bros.)
Produced by: Rob Cavallo & Goo Goo Dolls
Recorded: 1997–1998
Track Listing Primary Musicians
Dizzy
Slide
Broadway
January Friend
Black Balloon
Bullet Proof
Amigone
All Eyes on Me
Full Forever
Acoustic #3
Iris
Extra Pale
Hate This Place
Johnny Rzeznik – Guitars, Vocals
Robby Takac – Bass, Vocals
Mike Malinin – Drums

Dizzy Up the Girl by Goo Goo Dolls

 

 

The opening track “Dizzy” has a T-Rex-like vocal delivery by Rzeznik with more modern, nineties rock instrumentation and, although a short track, time is given for a nice instrumental break. “Slide” is an upbeat love song built on some finely picked guitar riffing and later echoed chording. The song reached the Top 10 on the US pop charts in early 1999 and topped the charts in Canada. “Broadway” follows as a local anthem for Buffalo topped by upbeat music and melodic pop vocals.

The first of four songs written by Takac where he takes lead vocals, “January Friend” has an upbeat, new wave rock vibe like the other three tracks later in the album. “Black Balloon” is a unique track with layered electric and acoustic guitars before eventually breaking into stronger rhythmic arrangement while maintaining a dreamy atmosphere throughout. The song is also one of many to feature string arrangements by David Campbell. “Bullet Proof” is a slightly dark, romantic and dramatic track with soaring vocals and much atmosphere, while Takac’s “Amigone” features a strong and present drum beat by Malinin. Following the Takac new wave track “Full Forever”, “Acoustic #3” lives up to its title as purely acoustic track by Rzeznik with some slight string arrangements which may be a bit superfluous in the otherwise simple elegance of the short track.

Goo Goo Dolls

“Iris” is the ultimate culmination of the album’s vibe with its acoustic with waltz-like beat and odd but appealing arrangement. The song was originally composed for the soundtrack of the film City of Angels and as the lead single from Dizzy Up the Girl, the song topped the pop charts in several countries. The album concludes with a couple of upbeat electric rockers, Takac’s slightly punk “Extra Pale”, and the full-fledged rocker “Hate This Place”, which completes the journey of this fine album.

With five successful singles released, Dizzy Up the Girl was far more successful than any previous or subsequent Goo Goo Dolls album. Following its release, the group took their time following up, with the seventh album Gutterflower arriving in 2002.

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1998 Page

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of the 20th anniversary of 1998 albums.

 

Sports by Huey Lewis & the News

Buy Sports

Sports by Huey Lewis and the NewsHuey Lewis and the News found their peak of commercial success with their third album, Sports. Released in the Autumn of 1983, the album topped the Billboard album charts the following year and spawned five Top 20 hits which remained on the charts and mainstream pop radio well into 1985. The album is a collection of original songs by Lewis and the band as well as songs written or co-written by composers outside the group, while maintaining an astonishing cohesion throughout.

The roots of the group date back to 1972 when Lewis, a vocalist and harmonica player joined the San Francisco area jazz-funk group Clover along with keyboardist Sean Hopper. Clover had a lengthy career through the 1970s and recorded several albums with minor success in the US And UK. When Lewis departed in 1977, the group became the original backing band for Elvis Costello’s debut album, My Aim Is True. Meanwhile, Lewis and Hopper began collaborating with another Bay Area jazz-funk group called Soundhole, with members including saxophonist and guitarist Johnny Colla, bassist Mario Cipollina and drummer Bill Gibson. In 1978, Huey Lewis & The American Express was officially formed with lead guitarist Chris Hayes becoming the sixth and final member in 1979. After a record deal with Chrysalis Records was secured, the group modified their name with the release of the self-titled LP Huey Lewis and the News in 1980. A second studio album, Picture This was self-produced and released in 1982 with gold-level success fueled by the breakout singles “Do You Believe in Love” and “Workin’ for a Livin'”.

Recording for Sports began immediately after the completion of Picture This with producer Bill Szymczyk assisting in production. Due to reorganization at Chrysalis, the band employed the strategy of holding back the master tapes and biding their time performing at small venues while the label got their affairs in order and were in a position to fully promote the album.

 


Sports by Huey Lewis & the News
Released: September 15, 1983 (Chrysalis)
Produced by: Bill Szymczyk, Huey Lewis and the News
Recorded: Fantasy Studios, Berkeley, CA; Record Plant, Sausalito, CA & The Automatt, San Francisco, 1983
Side One Side Two
The Heart of Rock n’ Roll
Heart and Soul
Bad Is Bad
I Want a New Drug
Walkin’ On a Thin Line
Finally Found a Home
If This Is It
You Crack Me Up
Honky Tonk Blues
Group Musicians
Huey Lewis – Lead Vocals, Harmonica
Chris Hayes – Guitars, Vocals
Johnny Colla – Saxophone, Guitars, Vocals
Sean Hopper – Piano, Keyboards, Vocals
Mario Cipollina – Bass
Bill Gibson – Drums, Percussion, Vocals

 

“The Heart of Rock n’ Roll” starts the album with a thumping heartbeat sound to launch the thematic (albeit somewhat tacky) anthem. Musically, it employs the faux eighties funk rock that permeates this album but worked well in the mid eighties pop scene. While equally as popular, “Heart and Soul” is of much higher quality overall. Co-written by Mike Chapman and Nicky Chinn of the band Exile, this classic rocker uses a repeated riff but with strategic arrangements throughout, including the mid section where the deadened guitar and bass make for a simple but effective bridge. Further, the song features probably the best vocals by Lewis overall on the album.

“Bad Is Bad” is a modern doo-wop / soul track with cool organ Hopper, bluesy guitars by Hayes and a potent harmonica solo by Lewis with lyrics that are both jocular and profound. The song was written in the late 1970s while Lewis was working with Phil Lynott and Thin Lizzy and that group did perform it live a few times half a decade before it was recorded for Sports. “I Want a New Drug” is another slightly clever theme which at once normalizes and demonizes drug use. Musically, there are dueling guitars over the simplest, cheezy-est synth rhythm, a method later “borrowed” by Ray Parker Jr. for the Ghostbuster theme song. “Walking On a Thin Line” was co-written by Andre Pessis and Kevin Wells of Clover and it starts with a haunting synth bass before breaking into an upbeat pop rocker with good melody and a semi-serious message about a Vietnam veteran’s post-war stress.

Huey Lewis and the News in 1983

The later part of the album tends to thin out on quality material. The lone exception is the hit song “If This Is It”, which features strong guitar-driven rock elements, some doo-wop backing vocals and fantastic lead vocals melody and chorus hook. The song is sandwiched between the pop-rock boilerplate “Finally Found a Home” and the more hyper new-wave synth rocker, “You Crack Me Up”. The album ends quite oddly with a cover of Hank Williams’ late 1940s Country hit “Honky Tonk Blues”, which does little to advance the original but is a nice place to showcase Hopper’s piano playing skills.

Sports was a hit worldwide but Huey Lewis and the News continued their rapid work schedule, scoring the Academy Award nominated theme song for the 1985 film Back to the Future and following up Sports with the similar pop-rocker Fore! in 1986, which was nearly as big of a hit as its predecessor.

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1983 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1983 albums.

 

Jim Croce 1973 Albums

Buy Life and Times
Buy I Got a Name

Jim Croce 1973 albumsIn 1973 Jim Croce found the pinnacle of his career success and all the bedlam and time on the road which goes along with such success. So, after releasing the successful album Life and Times and finishing the recording for the follow-up, I Got a Name, Croce decided he would retire from music to spend some valuable time with his family following that album’s tour. Unfortunately, Croce was killed in a plane crash on September 20, 1973, following a gig on the Life and Times tour in Louisiana.

A native of Philadelphia, Croce’s music career began by playing fraternity parties at Villanova University. He released his self-financed debut album, Facets in 1966, which sold out its limited release of 500 copies. Soon after, Croce began performing as a duet with his wife Ingrid and the couple migrated to New York City to record their 1969 album, Jim & Ingrid Croce. They followed this with an extensive, two-year college tour where they estimated that they drove more than 300,000 miles zig-zagging the country.

After connecting with classically trained pianist-guitarist-singer-songwriter Maury Muehleisen, Croce signed a three-record contract with ABC Records and released the successful 1972 album, You Don’t Mess Around with Jim, which features three songs which reached the Top 20, including the #1 hit “Time In a Bottle”. This was followed shortly by Life and Times which, like its predecessor was recorded in New York City and produced by the team of Terry Cashman and Tommy West.

Life and Times by Jim Croce
Life and Times
Released: July 1, 1973 (ABC)
Produced by: Terry Cashman & Tommy West
Recorded: The Hit Factory, New York City, 1972
Side One Side Two
One Less Set of Footsteps
Roller Derby Queen
Dreamin’ Again
Careful Man
Alabama Rain
A Good Time Man Like Me Ain’t Got No Business
Next Time, This Time
Bad, Bad Leroy Brown
These Dreams
Speedball Tucker
It Doesn’t Have to Be That Way
I Got a Name by Jim Croce
I Got a Name
Released: December 1, 1973 (ABC)
Produced by: Terry Cashman & Tommy West
Recorded: The Hit Factory, New York City, 1973
Side One Side Two
I Got a Name
Lover’s Cross
Five Short Minutes
Age
Workin’ at the Car Wash Blues
I’ll Have to Say I Love You in a Song
Salon and Saloon
Thursday
Top Hat Bar and Grille
Recently
The Hard Way Every Time
Primary Musicians (Both Albums)
Jim Croce – Lead Vocals, Guitars
Maury Muehleisen -Guitars, Vocals
Michael Kamen – Keyboards
Joe Macho – Bass
Gary Chester – Drums

“One Less Set of Footsteps”is a fine opener on Life and Times with excellent acoustic riffing throughout by Muehleisen. It was released as the album’s first single and reached the Top 40 on the pop charts. “Roller Derby Queen” is a folksy diddy featuring a strong, cardboard beat by drummer Gary Chester. “Dreamin’ Again” follows as classic Croce folk tune with pointed lyrics, descending acoustic riff and the very sparse arrangement of two guitars, vocals, light bass and minor orchestral effects

Life and Times by Jim Croce“Careful Man” is a bluesy, country folk tune with an upbeat rhythmic shuffle and a fiddle lead by Eric Weissberg over some honky tonk piano by Michael Kamen. “Alabama Rain” is a laid back love song, while “A Good Time Man Like Me Ain’t Got No Business (Singin’ the Blues)” returns to the upbeat with dual acoustic and flowing bass by Joe Macho. “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown” is the keystone song on Life and Times as a classic, good-time storyteller built on a distinct piano riff by Tommy West. This song became Croce’s second number one single. The rest of the album repeats the alternating folk ballad/upbeat blues pattern with the elegant ballads “These Dreams” and “It Doesn’t Have to Be That Way” sandwiching the riff-laden “Speedball Tucker”.

Jim Croce

Life and Times was released in July 1973 and reached the Top 10 in the US and topped the charts in Canada. Once again, quickly following up on the success and keeping up the momentum, Croce once again entered the studio with Cashman and West to start a follow-up very soon after the previous album’s release.

Unlike Life and Times, which featured songs exclusively written by Croce and Croce alone, I Got a Name features tracks composed by multiple artists from within and outside of Croce and his core group. The opening title song was composed by Charles Fox and Norman Gimbel and is an exquisite ballad that exudes personal existence and humanity, which proved to be all the more profound following Croce’s death. The simple musical arrangement features a crisp acoustic, fantastic bass and some orchestral strings which all complement Croce’s perfectly executed soft melodies. The first posthumous single, the song peaked at #10 on the Billboard pop charts.

I Got a Name by Jim CroceTwo Croce originals follow with “Lover’s Cross” being a Baroque folk acoustic with lyrical interpersonal philosophy and “Five Short Minutes” being an upbeat rocker, featuring edgy lyrics, horns and a sax solo. “Age” was co-written by Jim and Ingrid Croce and a version of the song was recorded on their 1969 album together. The song also commences the heart of this album as a folk ballad on top of an upbeat rhythm and a pedal steel lead. “Workin’ at the Car Wash Blues” is written in the same spirit as “Bad Bad Leroy Brown” with the distinction being the shuffling drum rolls and the pointed slide guitar.

“I’ll Have to Say I Love You in a Song” is a classic love ballad and one of Croce’s most indelible songs. The song peaked at #9 in April 1974, becoming his fifth and final Top 10 hit. The Muehleisen-composed “Salon and Saloon” is an old-timey piano saloon ballad and bears the distinction of being the last song that Croce recorded in his lifetime. Rounding out the album is Sal Joseph’s folk song “Thursday”, the upbeat “Top Hat Bar and Grille”, the interesting mellow folk vibe of “Recently”, and “The Hard Way Every Time”, Croce’s retrospective and haunting folk track, which works perfectly as the final song.

Just one week after recording wrapped in September, Croce’s plane clipped a pecan tree at the end of the runway and could not gain sufficient altitude, with the resulting crash killing five. Released on December 1, 1973, I Got a Name was another very successful album commercially, peaking near the top of the charts. A 1974 greatest hits album entitled Photographs & Memories was one final blockbuster success and it nicely encapsulated his rapid run at stardom as it totally drew from Croce’s three incredible albums from 1972 and 1973.

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1973 Images

Part of Classic Rock Review’s celebration of 1973 albums.